The cashier handed me my receipt a couple of weeks ago, and as I turned to leave, she said, “Happy holidays!”
I couldn’t let it go.
“What holidays are you referring to?”
She took a moment before replying, “You know, the holidays that are coming up.”
“Such as?” I prompted.
She paused again.
“Uh, the ones that are celebrated this time of year?”
“Is that your answer? A question?” I asked.
She leaned in a bit to me and said in a low voice: “Well, Christmas and all that, I guess.”
“Aha!” I said, as though I were Sherlock Holmes solving a case. “So what you meant all along was ‘Merry Christmas,’ then?”
“We’re supposed to say ‘Happy holidays’ to our customers,” she said as the line behind me in the checkout lane began to lengthen.
“Aha again!” I said. “So, the company forbids you from wishing your customers a Merry Christmas here at – ta dah! – Christmastime?”
She told me the company probably didn’t want to offend any shoppers.
“How would that offend anyone who is Christmas shopping?” I asked, pointing to the woman behind me who had emptied her buggy onto the register belt: Christmas tree-shape glass jars full of red-and-green-wrapped candy, a box of Christmas cards, a small Nativity set.
“I guess the store wants to be inclusive for all the holidays at this time of year,” the cashier said.
“Such as, what other holidays do we celebrate toward the end of December 2013?” I asked. “Hanukkah was at Thanksgiving. My calendar is fairly blank after that. It shows the beginning of winter on Dec. 21 and the moon in its last quarter on Dec. 25. Are you one of those people who dance around in the moonlight to celebrate winter?”
“No, sir. My pastor wouldn’t like that.”
“Well, if you ever do, I’ll send you a ‘Happy Winter Solstice’ card. Until then, please just stick to the facts and wish Christmas shoppers a Merry Christmas.”
As I left, I noticed the cashier looking at a calendar page for December and scratching her head.
Dear readers, here is where my artistic license expires. That incident never occurred outside of my head. First, I hope I wouldn’t be that rude to a store worker, and second, it would imply that I have started Christmas shopping. At that point, I had not.
In fact, at this point, only days away from the holiday – the Christmas holiday – I still haven’t darkened any store doorways.
That doesn’t mean I’m one of those industrious online shoppers. It just means I haven’t had time to check my list twice.
I hope my wife realizes Christmas isn’t really about shopping anyway. (And I have a couple of days left, Honey.)